Elex 2 Review
Our Score: 8.5/10
Elex 2 is a very fun third-person action RPG. There are many impactful choices your character can make in dozens of quests. Although the combat can feel low budget at times, the skill tree allows you to make your own character specialized in how you want to play the game. As well, there are many diverse factions you can join which each have their own cities of unique NPCs.
I won’t list plot-specific spoilers in my review, but I will give a brief synopsis of the plots of Elex and Elex 2. I won’t cover past the first hour of plot from either game in case you wanted to play the original game after reading my review.
Elex 2 is a direct sequel to 2017’s Elex. You don’t have to play the original game to understand this game, but it would definitely be beneficial because the series has a lot of unique lore to understand and there are plenty of references and returning characters from the original game.
If you choose to play the original Elex, note that this sequel will choose certain canon choices even though there are multiple choices to choose from in the original game. For example, even though there were multiple romance choices in the original game, this sequel already chooses who the protagonist had a kid with. As well, although it was possible to kill many major characters in the first game, this sequel assumes you generally didn’t because many of them end up being returning characters in this game. Unfortunately, you cannot carry over your saves or decisions from the original game into the second game.
Both Elex games take place on a planet called Magalan. Magalan was an advanced civilization, but was struck by a comet. This led to the world being inhospitable, and led to humanity separating into several different factions with their own cities.
The game’s protagonist is Jax, who was previously a commander of a faction named the Albs. Although he had great strides by the end of the original game, he left his old life behind and moved into a secluded hut.
In the beginning of Elex 2, Jax’s home is invaded and he is attacked by aliens called the Skyands. Jax gets infected in the attack with Dark Elex and passes out. Adam saves Jax’s life and shows him an area called Bastion, which serves as the player hub. You can find Jax’s son, Dex, as well as Dex’s mother who you can recruit as a companion early on in Bastion.
Throughout the game Jax needs to find allies for Bastion so that they are prepared to fight the Skyand invasion. I’m purposely keeping the synopsis simple and spoiler-free, but the game quickly turns into an amazing adventure. You’re given free rein on what to do first, whether it be upgrading Bastion, exploring the other faction hubs, or finding new companions. The game has many teleporters you can discover, allowing for fast travel between different areas once they’re unlocked.
Right from the onset, there are five level of difficulties you can choose from, which can also be changed at any time. These difficulties include a story mode where you can enjoy the story without stressing about the gameplay. The options get progressively more difficult up to the “ultra” difficulty which are for those who are familiar with these kinds of games and are looking for a far more challenging experience.
After going through the game, this title is not as hard to get into compared to the original Elex, and the developers have learned from their missteps. In the original game, one of my big criticisms was that you were far too weak and you were immediately thrown into an extremely unforgiving world. This is still true, but to a much lesser extent in Elex 2.
If you weren’t familiar with these kinds of action RPGs from Piranha Bytes, who developed the Risen and Gothic games, they can be challenging in the beginning, and many people can get frustrated and put off by these kinds of games very quickly. In Elex 2, however, the beginning of the game doesn’t have such a bad difficulty spike at all. You’re immediately given many quest markers that point you in many directions, a companion to assist you, and you also have a hub area with everything you need to get started all within the first hour of playing.
The game isn’t easy by any means, but at least you have steps to point you in the right direction instead of getting slaughtered by going to a wrong area by mistake and having no clue on what to do. The late-game in Elex 2 does eventually start to make you clear out dozens of powerful enemies, but by then you’ll have the equipment and knowledge to tackle them on.
Your central hub is called Bastion. You can recruit companions throughout the game and send them to Bastion to rest or you can take one with you. You can carry only one companion with you at a time and they will occasionally make a few comments when you visit a city.
Jax’s room in Bastion will conveniently contain every kind of workbench. Adam will be here too, and you can ask him for help on what to do next in the main story or you can talk to him to find out more about the game’s lore.
Although the game has a tight budget, the pre-rendered cutscenes look great. You see these pre-rendered scenes only during important story events and they’re each only a few minutes long. The real-time graphics are not impressive in this game, but the art design and world design is still phenomenal.
The playable world only has a few cities, which are essentially faction hubs where leaders and members of each faction congregate together. Each of the faction’s city hubs feels very distinct. For example, the Berserkers are in a hub called The Fort, which looks like a medieval castle with bridges all over. You can see the Berserkers growing crops for their community as well. The Morkons, on the other hand, live in an underground cave with recycled air and you can see that the NPCs are more stressed. Morkons believe in praying to their god for physical power and their society is more theological.
There is a significant attention to detail with all of the game’s locations. Outside of the faction hubs, the world map doesn’t really have too much to encounter unfortunately. You can still freely explore and loot, but the world itself is barren of NPCs and is meant to reflect a climate where you can’t survive on your own. There are random buildings to discover in the wilderness, but a lot of them are recycled assets.
The Elex games are AA games. They’re not indie titles, but they’re also not AAA titles either. They have a budget that is on the lower end, but these games have a lot of charm in them. Just like the original Elex, this game plays “janky” as well.
It’s a very ambitious title, but from the combat gameplay early on you’ll see the hitboxes don’t match and the gameplay plays awkwardly at times. The combat gameplay does improve significantly as you progress through the game since you will have access to more ranged weaponry, but when you’re hitting enemies with a lead pipe in the very beginning and dodging the enemy’s attacks it does feel unpolished. I’d argue that this game’s strengths lies with its strong narrative and lore rather than the combat.
Like many classic RPGs (Witcher, Divinity, Gothic), inventory management and equipment management is extremely important in this game. You’ll constantly be looting areas, be it from abandoned buildings, monster drops or even stealing from NPCs, to get better weapons and armor. It’s also one of the primary ways of making money, which you can use to buy items from vendors. If you get a ranged weapon, you’ll need ammo for it, which can be found, bought, or crafted from materials.
Jax’s main stats are his Attributes, which includes Strength (physical power), Constitution (health), Dexterity (ranged power), Intelligence (mana for spells), and Cunning (social stats). You can acquire points when leveling up (or consuming Elex) to spend in these categories. You level up by defeating enemies or by completing missions. With this leveling system, you can choose to build Jax however you want to which is one of the strengths of this game.
When certain combinations of Jax’s attributes are high enough, you can spend Learning Points at a trainer to get unique Skills. These vary wildly, but you can craft chemical drugs, cook better food, craft ammo, upgrade weapons, learn to lockpick, learn to hack safes, learn how to mine ore, just to name a few examples. You’ll need to look out for the appropriate workplace to use these skills, such as a lab bench, blacksmith, hearth (cooking stove), etc, but most of these will be in your hub. Skill trainers are plentiful across the world, and there are more than enough trainers to train all skills in the offhand chance you made one mad at you. In this sense, you choose what kind of gameplay loop you want to experience.
The conversations Jax has with NPCs is similar to that of The Witcher, Mass Effect, or Dragon Age. Jax will generally talk to the NPCs one-on-one, and you’ll be able to choose dialogue options. The game also doesn’t show Jax’s equipped helmet in the cutscenes and you can see his expressions without worrying about awkward looking equipment.
If your attributes are high enough, you can even unlock unique conversation options. One event that happened to me was when Jax was mugged by highwaymen. Jax had the option to say, “Are you sure you want to try to rob me?” because his strength was high enough to intimidate his pursuers.
In fact, in one quest I was actually able to mug someone who was trying to mug my character. Jax had actually said, “Wait, YOU want 200 shards from ME? How about YOU give ME 200 shards and I’ll let you live.” If you’re looking for really crazy dialogue options like in older Fallout games, you’ll find it here.
The dialogues and questlines are handled extremely well in this game. The quests are made in an interconnected way, such that you’ll likely have to explore a little of each area to progress. Because there is fast travel across the regions once you’ve found the teleporters, you don’t need to spend significant time actually going back and forth.
The NPCs have a lot of dialogue, and a lot of them feel like actual characters with their own personalities and stories. A lot of them will also provide detail on the in-game lore as well. This is a game where you have to talk to everybody. By doing so you can unlock more quests and you’ll have more information to make a well-informed decision, and sometimes even more dialogue options. I would actually spend money in bars such as Gosta’s bar to get useful information about other NPCs.
Here’s a non-spoiler example on how the quests are interconnected. You can go anywhere you want in the game after unlocking the Bastion hub area, so I went to the Morkon area. I was asked by someone high in power to find a trader who was in the Berserker area (their hub is called “the Fort”) and bring him back to Morkon territory.
I went to The Fort but was denied access by the guards, but I could get in if I had a good reason. There were Berserker NPCs just outside the gates and I decided to do errands for them. I found Scrappy, a miner who explained there was no ore coming back from the mine. I explored and found out that the cave had a poison leak that killed all of its miners.
I was able to choose how to solve this problem, and I pondered on if the poison leak in the mine could be sealed. To do that I had to find a gas mask to enter the cave, and I went to another vendor and purchased one. When I went to the cave, the leak was too big. I had to instead buy a bunch of gas masks and I told Scrappy that we should hire new miners instead.
Since the mines were used to extract metals used for making weapons and armor, it was considered high priority enough for me to be able to get past the Fort’s gates to explain the problem to higher-ups. There I was able to speak with the Morkon trader. But, it turns out the trader couldn’t leave because someone took his shipment. I asked around, but I had to get access to the Upper District of the Fort to solve it, which required completing more sidequests in The Fort to build up my reputation. It did work out for me in the end, and the trader’s questline kept continuing with plenty more choices along the way.
It’s simply amazing, and along with way I was able to talk to many NPCs who each had a lot of interesting dialogue. If it sounded stressful, it really wasn’t, and there were plenty of map markers along the way to help guide me (this isn’t like Morrowind if that’s what you were thinking).
All of these NPCs were constantly referencing each other as well. Seriously, the NPCs in this game are smart. If you think this is an old game where you can trick them, you’re dead wrong. Let’s say someone gives you a key to retrieve a data log for them. When you open the chest with the data log, there’s money in there as well. Did you think you could take that money for yourself though? Nope, because it turns out the whole thing was a test to see if you could be trusted, and trust goes an extremely far way in this game.
The amount of quests can feel overwhelming at times, but the developers are masters at their craft. All of the quests had branching options because of the choices you can do. You can almost always choose to help cover for someone or betray them, for example, and your end result will differ depending on your choice. The optional quests are never generic at all, there was only a few of the generic “kill 3 monsters” kind of side-quests out of the hundreds of quests present in this game.
The jetpack is a unique mechanic that I don’t see in video games except for maybe Dark Void. You have a jetpack that automatically recharges fuel that can be used anytime. It starts off by letting you fly for roughly 5-10 seconds but can be permanently upgraded to last longer. It’s very interesting because it adds a vertical element to exploring in the game. You don’t have to stress too much about finding an entrance to an area or even getting stuck in a river because you can often fly your way out. If you get into a fight with an enemy that’s too difficult, you can fly away to safety. You can even stealth into an enemy base if you’re smart with the jetpack.
Nothing is more fun than jumping off a cliff and slowing your descent with your jetpack, though that might not have been its intended use. You can upgrade your jetpack to let you boost across the map as well, and it made traveling to remote regions extremely quick and painless. There are other upgrades to the jetpack you can apply as well, such as retrorockets that let you fall safely if you run out of fuel mid-air.
The lock-picking minigame in Elex games is different than lock-picking in most other games. You need to figure out the order to pick the individual locks in and it has nothing to do with speed or pressure. You’ll see that you can get some of the individual locks to stay up, and you need to try going either left or right to see if they’ll stay up. It wasn’t explained well in the game, but once you get the hang of it it’s very fun.
There’s a hacking minigame to unlock safes where you guess a 4-digit number like in Mastermind board game or the classic video game Codebreaker (it tells you which numbers are completely wrong, which are right but in the wrong location, and which are right and in the right location). These help break up the pace, but generally aren’t required for main missions, only for side missions. There’s an extremely fun questline involving an underground group stealing from all the major NPCs in The Fort very reminiscent of the Thieves’ Guild in The Elder Scrolls games.
In this game, you can choose which faction to align Jax with. Your choice determines the ending and each choice has its own unique quests, vendors, and skills. But to align yourself with a faction you’ll have to get in their good graces by earning their respect by getting to know their leaders and completing their quests.
The game will keep pushing you to join a faction as early as possible, but you don’t have to do it early in the game if you don’t want to. You need to join a faction by the end of chapter 3, otherwise you will be locked out of them. This is more than enough time because chapter 4 consists of mostly endgame missions.
The five factions include the Berserkers, Albs, Morkons, Outlaws, and Clerics. Each of these factions have their own different beliefs and civilizations. The Berserkers, for example, prioritize magic and don’t use technology. The Clerics, on the other hand, prefer using technology and use technological weapons in combat. The Morkons focus on melee and believe getting riches from combat (they are like something out of a Mad Max movie). The Outlaws craft chemical drugs to become stronger. The Albs use Elex to become tougher (at the cost of their emotions) and also use technological weapons. All of these factions are at odds with each other and from the premise of the game it looks like there are tensions between them.
The game has a morality system called “Destruction”. If you make peaceful or respectful choices your Destruction goes down, but if you make violent or rude decisions your Destruction goes up. It’s important because you can only choose certain factions if your Destruction meets their requirements; for example, joining the Morkons requires a high Destruction. There are tricks to make it go up or down. Killing non-aggressive animals such as farm animals or rats (or even humans) will raise Destruction, and you can donate to charity in your base to quickly lower Destruction. I would think that most players would lean towards a non-Destruction playthrough.
Companions also have a loyalty system. If you make choices that they agree or disagree with, the companion’s loyalty will go up or down. Caja, for example, prefers lower Destruction choices, whereas Nasty prefers higher Destruction choices. The conversations with NPCs you escort and companions was done well. Often you get interrupted by combat while with companions, but thankfully if the conversation is interrupted then after the battle they’ll continue right where they left off.
The companion quests are a bit repetitive because they generally involve killing an enemy or finding an item, but the storylines regarding the companions are amazing because you learn a lot more about them.
Although I mentioned that the game made canon choices at the beginning of the game because Jax had a kid with a woman, they’re not close unless you choose to re-pursue that relationship. This game has romance options with three different women if you raise their loyalty and complete their companion quests (you can only have romance with one per playthrough of course). It helps add a bit of fun to the game and other characters will acknowledge your choice. Many other NPCs have a loyalty system as well, but to a lesser extent. If you do quests to help NPCs and choose helpful dialogue options, they’ll treat you better as well.
The dialogue is also done well because if you did a questline in a different order, the NPCs will actually acknowledge it. For example, I did a task where the NPC would give me either money or a healing potion recipe as a reward. I didn’t even have to make a choice because the game knew I already got my hands on the recipe elsewhere, so Jax automatically said “I’ll take the money because I already have the recipe,” to which the NPC responded “Smartass!” as a joke.
One big criticism I have is the gameplay elements regarding Jax being infected. As you progress the story, Jax will feel sick when waking up, but it gets annoying after a while. He’ll mumble to himself and complain about not feeling well, and the screen will flash purple for a second. The problem is that many main and optional quests require time to pass, and there’s no other way to do so than to sleep in a bed. The problem is that it’ll lead to Jax complaining again.
As you progress further, Jax will even get blackouts, leading to Jax being teleported randomly on the world map and time passing a few hours. It’s not too bad because you can fast teleport back and I can tell the game developers did it so that this would only happen when talking to an NPC, not necessarily jumping you out of “mission critical” points in the story.
To avoid blackouts, you need to do mental training by talking to one of your companions in Bastion. The thing is, you can’t really do the mental training in advance, you can only do it when Jax feels the onset of a blackout. The problem is that sometimes quests would advance time a few hours, and then Jax would realize he’s going to get a blackout soon, but I’d be too far away to get the mental training to solve it, so then I’d be randomly teleported across the map as I was talking to an NPC and finishing up a quest. But when I was at my base just before, I didn’t have the option to do the mental training because Jax wasn’t feeling unpleasant enough at the time.
It’s tricky, I would’ve preferred if they kept Jax being infected as a narrative element, but removed the gameplay element of him being infected and suffering from blackouts. My solution was to progress the storyline immediately, which solved the issue after one of the missions. Again, it’s not bad at all, it’s just an inconvenience. Games such as Far Cry 2 (a game where you constantly had to get malaria shots) were far more intrusive.
The endgame gets a bit repetitive as well, having many main missions where you need to wipe out invading enemy forces. Often this involves fighting maybe 20-30 enemies for each mission. This would be done by Jax and a companion of your choice. It would’ve been better if you had your own army fight directly against these armies. Thankfully, your army will fight for you in the final fight, but only that final fight and not for the fights before that. The endgame dungeons are also boring, and I found myself skipping past dozens of optional enemies.
The story of the game starts off as very mysterious and interesting, but the mid-game does get boring. You’ll learn more about the factions and their leaders, but often you’ll need to do tasks to gain their respect. This is where the gameplay does get a bit repetitive and the narrative becomes slow.
The final 5 or so hours of the game has a lot of amazing twists and the lore as well as all the mysteries get explained and wrapped up succinctly. If you do buy this game and are getting bored, it’s definitely worth it to keep going through it because there’s a big pay-off in the end and the final battles are epic.
There are a few explorable dungeons near the end of the game, but it would’ve been very nice if the game had more dungeons to explore. Most interactions take place directly on the world map without exploring any buildings. The majority of the buildings in this game are either the endgame dungeons or the hub faction buildings.
For the most part, the voice acting is performed well. The main characters and important NPCs do an amazing job. Considering the sheer number of NPCs in this game, some of the NPCs do admittedly have worse voice acting.
Elex 2 really has a lot of passion put into it. I’ve spent hours just listening to all of the characters and their dialogue. The game is more polished than the original Elex, but this game still does have a few missteps. There’s a lot of small glitches such as characters running into the character you’re talking to. There are some mistakes in the voice acting such as a few ad-libbed lines here and there and some lines of dialogue not playing correctly, but that’s just a few instances within hours’ worth of voiced dialogue. The hitboxes are terrible for the physical combat, but it’s easy to play with that in mind.
Playing through Elex 2, I feel like it fills a hole that’s been missing since Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition had released. This really isn’t an indie title either; players might find games such as Baldur’s Gate 3 and Divinity: Original Sin 2 to be in contrast with this title because those games have an even steeper difficulty curve, more complex game systems, and only a simple bird’s-eye view camera angle.
It really isn’t too hard to get into Elex 2 and it really has a beautiful world with many biomes, rich lore, interesting NPCs, and a very engaging story. This is a game that’s easy to get hooked on once you understand its mechanics and I cannot recommend it enough. Just be aware that you do need to overlook some of its shortcomings.